Time travel is hard; first there is the technological bits and bobs to work out and then consider the ramifications of your actions in the past and their ripple effect throughout time and space… tearing a hole in the fabric of human existence. Thankfully this movie really has nothing to do with that.
Safety Not Guaranteed is a character study. Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) is a woman adrift in her life in Seattle, working as an intern at Seattle Magazine. When Jeff Schwensen (Jake Johnson) a writer at Seattle Magazine wants to investigate a classified ad requesting a partner to travel back in time, Darius’ interest is piqued and she volunteers to go. We soon meet the man behind the ad, Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass) a jean jacket wearing, mulleted, youth trapped in an adult body. Darius is drawn to him and convinces Kenneth to take her on as his partner. As the two train together, preparing themselves for the “heat” through weapons training and martial arts, the attraction is obvious. However the question lingers throughout – did Kenneth really build a time machine?
The characters in the story are pretty great, although Jeff’s character is kind of a tragic waste who you want to like but can’t because he’s a tool. Mark Duplass plays Kenneth with a strange seriousness, one part adolescent and one part adult – balancing the absurd premise with a very human motivation. Aubrey Plaza is fantastic as the husk of a woman who finds life again as she gets rapped up in Kenneth’s world.
There is swearing, drinking, and carousing in this movie (pretty much all Jake Johnson’s character Jeff), so be aware and the ending for some reason fell a little flat for me. I think it showed too much, unlike the rest of the movie where things were vague and mysterious. Some ambiguity at the end would have worked great.
Should you watch Safety Not Guaranteed? I’d say, if you like Napoleon Dynamite or Cohen Brother’s films then you’ll probably enjoy this character driven comedy. Its quirky, its not necessary laugh out loud funny, but you will giggle a little.